Monday, June 19, 2017

Yes, you're reading too much news.

Is there anyone  who
doesn't wonder?
It starts with just once, usually in the morning.

Maybe a second look at night, right before dinner.

Soon though, it's halfway through the day when you have an odd feeling that something is happening without you, and when you check the headlines, there it is, the bright red ribbon at the top of a news page which tells you that, oh my God. You were right. You were only gone a few hours and already there's BREAKING NEWS

What the hell happened?

You realize you need more news to feel sure you haven't missed something. You start checking headlines when you break from big tasks. Then you start big-tasking when you break from checking headlines. 

Pretty soon, your normal activities become influenced by your news reading. Now, you don't want to talk about life and happiness with a friend over a glass of wine but the hidden reason Trump did so and so, and where he'll be in six months, and 

What the hell will happen?

After two or three weeks of this, you wake to the mother of news hangovers when you realize you're still upset about that awful story you read yesterday and couldn't stop thinking about. Your sense of humor is MIA. You're anxious and depressed.

You'll cut back, you say. You'll check headlines only once in the morning, like before. You fail.

When people say, "I never look at news more than once a day," you envy them.

Later, you think about that. "Ridiculous," you say while you stare at your phone and don't type "W" into the google box which has learned to instantly bring up the Washington Post.

Later still, however, you are vulnerable. You're working on a short story, you've been productive all day, and right there is the Google Chrome button saying "just two clicks and you'll be at the Wall Street Journal learning new stuff. Come on, you know you want to."

You wonder, as Kathleen Parker wondered in a recent article, if  you along with others are going a little crazy with Trump spreading viral crazy all over the place.

You remember that news hangover from last week .

You say your mantra: "Not doing this."

You walk away.

For a while you stand by the window and think about what's really going on.
You realize, you're not looking for information. You haven't been looking for information for a while. You just haven't been sure what would happen if you stopped looking. 

You remember what you've always known about anxiety: Fear is not information.

You realize that if these days feel uncertain and scary, BREAKING NEWS is not information either, but a hand yanking you into a dark alley as you pass by, minding your own business.

And now that you're tuning into your inner ally, a very, very good thing happens before you even have to find a local News Readers chapter.  

You no longer wish to be vigilant.

You just want to live to write and write to live the way you're supposed to.

A day or two later, you're laughing again and telling funny stories. Reading novels has left you with less time to read the news and today, you even forgot to check the headlines.

You're texting with your friends and talking about kids getting married and finding great jobs, and you're making plans to get together and talk about more stuff that doesn't come in red boxes with white letters.   

This was not a boating accident. You didn't happen in and happen out of your preoccupation with news. You know you need both a micro and macro feeling of control over your world and for a while you lost the latter.

Now you know, if reassurance  isn't available via Google Chrome, it is attainable via your powers of reason, resistance, and resolve as long as you protect them.

You won't forget that.




10 comments:

  1. My favorite sentence was this: Breaking News is a hand yanking you into a dark alley as you pass by, minding your own business.
    Yes: years ago I made a conscious choice to no longer allow myself to be sucked in...and under...by the "If it Bleeds, It Leads" mongers.

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    1. I'm getting there. It's more work than I thought to look the other way.

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  2. I'm right with you. I've become a news junkie. Its like we live in a reality show, and I have to know the latest episode. It gets too much, however, and I'm learning to watch only once (or twice) a day.

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    1. I've had the same thought...life has become series television with cliffhangers and "what's next" suspense. I never liked tuning out "news," but it seems to have become an issue of mental health now.

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  3. I used to be a news junkie. I have become incredibly happier watching little to none!

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    1. I'm on a news diet now. I think it will make me happier.

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  4. My husband has a political TV station on hour after hour, and it's the worst kind of background noise. We do need to have a feeling of control over our lives, but this? I barely even pay attention to "breaking news" anymore - in fact, just looked up at the TV screen and, sure enough, there was "breaking news". I wish I could say I'm desensitized but I'm not.

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    1. It's such a work in progress to stay away, but the effects of constant vigilance are so harmful. They sneak up on you.

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  5. News hangover indeed! I really do feel as if I have lost my sense of humor these past six or seven months. There are other reasons for that, but those reasons are significantly compounded by what is taking place in this country, reinforced by the spin that media puts on it. All media, though each outlet has its angle of course.

    Lately, I've taken to forcing myself to limit my news diet. And, I'm trying to get back to writing about lighter subjects, at least half the time, as I once did, hoping that my sense of humor will re-emerge. Not easy in such disturbing times, but thank you for the reminder that news days "off" are a helpful Rx.

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    1. D.A. Everything you said, plus this: lighter pieces are so chicken and egg; you can't write light when you're heavy-hearted but writing light makes your heart lighter.

      I've been extremely selective in the news items I read and at that only once a day, and I'm not kidding, I think I look younger.

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